Looping clip of water ripples. Animation created in After Effects.

Almost every digital looping clip of water ripples. Animation created in After Effects. captured from the real world contains grain or visual noise caused by the recording, encoding, scanning, or reproduction processes and by the equipment used to create the image. However, noise can be unwanted for aesthetic reasons. Technical reasons also exist for reducing noise.

For example, compression algorithms usually achieve smaller file sizes if the input material is less noisy, so noise reduction is a valuable preprocessing step for work such as DVD creation and video streaming. The Add Grain, Match Grain, and Remove Grain effects allow you to manipulate grain that appears more or less evenly over an entire image. Grain effects can’t correct image problems that affect only a few pixels, such as dust, salt and pepper noise, or analog video dropouts. Instead, parameters and presets for different types of film can be used to synthesize different types of grain. The Remove Grain and Match Grain effects use a two-step process to manipulate grain without affecting the edges, sharpness, or highlights of an image. Each grain effect is applied with default settings and is displayed in Preview viewing mode, which has a preview region framed by a white border and centered on the image.

The preview region displays the results of the grain effect on a portion of your image, for speed and comparison purposes. The grain effects are almost fully automatic but also offer many controls to achieve precise results. Displays the current settings of the applied effect in a 200×200-pixel area. Shows the current color matte or mask, or the combination of both, which results from the current settings of the Blend With Original controls group.

Renders the full active frame, using the current settings of the effect. Adjust the controls for the effect in the Effect Controls panel. The preview region in the Composition panel reflects any changes you make. Choose Final Output from the Viewing Mode control. The Blend With Original controls group lets you precisely apply a grain effect to a particular area of an image by masking and matting the desired area. You can choose between two selection techniques or use a combination of both:Color Matching Excludes any area of the image that matches a selected color.

By inverting the matte, you can also selectively process such an area. Masking Layer Uses any layer in the current composition as a mask to selectively process or exclude an area of the current layer or track. Amount, the white areas fully blend with the original so that they are completely excluded from the processing. This behavior remains true when the match is inverted. Regardless of the Amount value, the black areas of the matte or mask are always processed. Apply a grain effect to the image.

To create a matte around the area to which you want to apply or exclude the grain effect, use the Color Matching controls in the Blend With Original controls group. To mask the current layer with another layer or track, use the Masking Layer controls. Adjust the Blur Matte value to soften the matte and to produce a softer transition between the affected and unaffected areas of the image. Makes the matte white wherever either the mask or the color match is white.

Makes the matte white where both of the inputs are white. Reduce the Amount value to let more of the original image show through the grain. When a grain effect is first applied, a neutral gray color is used to generate a default color-matching matte, so that in most images a visible matte appears. The Color Matching group of controls uses color matching to precisely define a matte.

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The matte isolates portions of the image where the layer that uses the grain effect is blended with the input. Click the color swatch and select a color in the Color Picker dialog box. To prevent the grain effect from affecting the selected color, make sure that the Invert Match control is deselected. To restrict the grain effect to the selected color, leaving the rest of the image unaffected, select Invert Match. If you want to exclude colors that are similar to the matching color, increase the Matching Tolerance value, which sets a threshold for color matching.

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As the value increases, the matte includes pixels with colors increasingly different from the matching color. Adjust the Matching Softness controls to determine the width of the transition band between completely matched and completely unmatched pixels or how smoothly the affected areas blend with the original image. Select Invert Match if you want to invert the matte so that the white areas become black and the black areas become white. The matching color is black in the matte and is processed by the grain effect regardless of the Amount setting. The inversion doesn’t affect any other settings. In some cases, you may want to use a different layer or track as a mask for the layer that uses a grain effect. This type of mask allows unlimited control over exactly which parts of an image are modified and by how much.

In the Effect Controls panel, choose the layer that you want to use as a mask from the Mask Layer control in the Blend With Original and Masking Layer controls groups. Choose a masking mode from one of the standard track matte mode options. Centers the masking layer over the current layer. Resizes the masking layer to match the dimensions of the current layer.

You can use the Preview Region controls group to change the position or the size of the preview region for a grain effect. Because adding or removing grain can affect sharpness of detail, you may want to preview an area of fine detail, such as a human face or some text. When you remove grain with the Remove Grain effect, a best practice is to preview an area where the grain is most clearly visible or most objectionable, such as a large expanse of solid color. You’ll achieve the best results by experimenting, applying small increments to each of several controls in the Effect Controls panel, and viewing the results in the Composition panel after every adjustment. A cross hair is centered in the Composition panel. In the image, click the desired center of the preview region.

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The preview region redraws, centered in the new position. To change the dimensions of the preview region, change the Width and Height values in the Effect Controls panel to the desired size, in pixels. Larger preview regions can result in slower rendering. Select Show Box if you want to outline the preview region in color.

Click the eyedropper button, and click a color anywhere on the screen. To view the fine detail of the noise structure, zoom into the preview region. To examine the noise in each channel independently, click the corresponding color channel icon in the Composition panel. To increase the interaction speed and preview duration, use the Region Of Interest feature in the Composition panel to reduce the area that’s processed. This technique is extremely useful for evaluating subtle adjustments. Noise sampling is the first and most important step in removing noise from an image or in matching the noise of one image in another image.

Normally, this process is entirely automatic. For fine control, you can switch to Manual mode and adjust the samples using the Sampling controls group in the Effect Controls panel. A noise sample should be a solid block of uniform color that clearly displays the noise pattern present in the image. The objective is to extract samples of pure noise, without any image features that the algorithm could misconstrue as grain. For example, extract samples from a piece of sky, a background wall, or an area of fleshtone.

All samples should be selected from the normal range of the film, DV, or video stock. The number of samples in automatic mode is high to ensure that the algorithm has enough good noise data, even if finding good samples in a particular image is difficult. In addition, automatic mode may override the number of samples you’ve set if the effect can’t find enough good samples. Automatic grain or sample selection generally gives acceptable results for the Match Grain or Remove Grain effect, but you can choose to manually position and resize each sample or change the sample number. For example, you may want to reposition samples if the automatic sampling selected a uniform area that is underexposed or overexposed and that lacks information about grain structure. If you want the samples to include the existing effects, precompose or pre-render the source layer with the effects and then apply the grain effect to the resulting source layer.

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Avoid sample areas with the following characteristics: sharp edges, color gradients, highlights, textures such as grass or water ripples, fine detail such as hair or tree leaves, and overexposed or underexposed areas lacking in information. In the Effect Controls panel, choose Noise Samples from the Viewing Mode menu. Choose Manual from the Sample Selection pop-up menu in the Sampling controls group. To remove the least desirable samples from the image, try reducing the Number Of Samples value.

A cross hair appears in the composition, centered on that sample. Click the desired location in the Composition panel to place the sample. Using the Selection tool , drag the sample point in the Composition panel to the desired location. Enter the desired horizontal and vertical coordinates in the Effect Controls panel. The number of sample points that are enabled corresponds to the current value of the Number Of Samples. Repeat for each sample point you want to move. By default, the Remove Grain and Match Grain effects take noise samples from the first frame of the layer, but you can choose to sample the noise from a different frame.

Changing the frame may be useful if large lighting or exposure variations occur between frames within the layer. Display Style is set to Frames, numbering from zero. The number of the current frame then appears in blue in the upper-left corner of the Timeline panel. Choose Noise Samples from the Viewing Mode menu. The selected frame appears in the Composition panel, and its automatic samples appear on the image. You can set the viewing mode for the Remove Grain or Match Grain effect to Noise Samples to see the areas sampled by the effect. Sampled areas are automatically framed with a white outline.

If you prefer, you can change the color of these noise sample boxes. Click the color swatch, and select a color in the Color Picker. Click the eyedropper, and click a color anywhere in the application window. The Add Grain effect creates new grain or noise in an image by building the grain from nothing or by basing the properties of the grain on presets. The Match Grain effect also creates new grain in an image but by matching the grain in a different image.

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The precise grain pattern present in any frame of film isn’t uniform throughout the frame but may depend on the tonal values of the content at each pixel. For example, in chemical film grain, the sizes of the silver halide crystals vary with the exposure level. The Add Grain and Match Grain effects let you reproduce these subtle changes in grain patterns across areas of an image by using the Shadows, Midtones, Highlights, and Midpoint controls in the Application controls group. These controls let you define how much grain is added to each tonal area and also to each channel in the image. For example, you can add more grain to overexposed areas of the blue channel to give an image of sky a grainier look.

To define how much grain is added to each tonal area in an image, adjust the Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights values. To define the midpoint of the tonal range of the image for grain application purposes, adjust the Midpoint slider. By default, this slider is centered at 0. 5, which represents the middle of the range of pixel values—127 for 8-bpc images and 16384 for 16-bpc images. For even finer control, use the Channel Balance controls to adjust the grain in the shadow, midtone, and highlight areas independently for each channel. By default, the grain or noise generated by the Add Grain and Match Grain effects moves at the same speed as the source material to accurately simulate realistic noise. Slowing down the noise processes may be useful for aesthetic effect or to keep the added noise from buzzing and drawing attention to itself.

To specify the frame rate of the added grain, as a multiple of the destination frame rate, adjust the Animation Speed value in the Animation controls group in the Effect Controls panel. At higher Animation Speed values, the lifespan of the grains is lower. At the default value of 1, the grain moves at the same rate as the frames. To use interpolation to create smooth transitions between the generated noise frames, select Animate Smoothly. This control matters only if Animation Speed is less than 1. To change the appearance of the noise between layers on the same frame, adjust the Random Seed value. You can adjust the color, saturation, and blending behavior of the grain generated by the Add Grain or Match Grain effect.

The color value of the underlying pixel in the source image. The Saturation value of the noise. The Tint Color and Tint Amount values, if you have modified these settings from the defaults. The Blending Mode value in the Application controls group.

The amount of noise applied, if any, to each channel individually using the Channel Intensities controls group. Gives the added noise a single tint. By default, the tones are black and white, but you can change the Tint Color to make it a gradient of any color. The Saturation and Channel Intensities controls aren’t available if Monochromatic is selected. Controls the depth and intensity of the color shift. Controls the color the added noise shifts toward.

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Controls the amount and vividness of the color. Makes the generated grain appear embedded in the image. This mode affects darker colors more than lighter ones, just as the grain in a film negative appears. Multiplies the color values of the noise and the source.

However, the result may be either lighter or darker than the original, because the noise may have either a positive or negative value. Combines the color values of the pixel in the source with the noise. However, the result isn’t always lighter than the original because the noise created by grain effects can have either a positive or negative value. Multiplies the inverse brightness values of the noise and the source. The effect is like printing from a multiple exposure on a negative. The result is always brighter than the original.

Combines the behavior of Film and Multiply: Both shadows and highlights get less grain, while midtones get a full application of grain. The Add Grain effect generates new noise from nothing and does not take samples from existing noise. Instead, parameters and presets for different types of film can be used to synthesize many different types of noise or grain. This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

The distribution of the added noise over the color channels does affect the overall color of the resulting image. With a dark background, the noise tends to add to the image visually, so a red tint or more noise in the red channel gives a reddish hue to the image. With a bright background, the noise tends to subtract from the image visually, so a red tint or more noise in the red channel gives a cyan color. The actual grain of your image may vary from the film presets, because of factors such as exposure and scanning resolution. To reproduce the grain of a particular film or photographic stock, choose the film type from the Preset menu for the Add Grain effect in the Effect Controls panel. To adjust the intensity and size of the applied grain and introduce a blur, adjust the Tweaking controls group for the Add Grain effect in the Effect Controls panel.

To modify the color of the added noise, adjust the Color controls. To define how the color value of the generated noise combines with the color value of the underlying destination layer at each pixel, choose a Blending Mode in the Application controls group. To define how much grain is added to each tonal area in your image and the midpoint, adjust the Shadows, Midtones, Highlights, and Midpoint values in the Application controls group. To animate the added grain, adjust the properties in the Animation controls group. To apply the effect to the entire image, choose Final Output from the Viewing Mode menu. The Match Grain and Add Grain effects share a group of Tweaking controls. You can use these controls to modify the intensity and size of the noise and to introduce a blur, all of which can be done across the three channels or individually for each channel.

You can also change the aspect ratio of the applied grain. The values of the Tweaking controls are relative to the noise sampled in the source layer: a value of 1. 0 leaves that property of the source noise unchanged, while higher and lower values alter the applied noise. Controls the amount of variation in brightness and color strength between pixels in the generated noise, which determines the visibility of the noise.